Leading up to the 2017 college football season, the CFB Film Room Scouting Dept. is putting together a summer scouting series. We’re focusing on the top draft-eligible prospects entering the 2017 season and will be reviewing their strengths and weaknesses from an NFL scouting perspective.
The player with arguably the most potential of any defensive prospect this year might just be the young safety from Florida State, Derwin James. He is a physical freak at 6’3” with incredible speed, quickness, and the instincts to match.
As part of our summer scouting series, here’s a look at a few key areas in James’ game, focusing on some of the strengths that make him a preseason stand-out prospect and on some flaws, which he will need to improve upon.
Using his unique combination of athleticism and instincts, James is excellent at coming up in support of the run. Using his quickness, he is capable of avoiding oncoming blockers, while still being able to keep his eyes on the ball carrier to make the play. In this play, it is essentially a 2-on-1, which should net Ole Miss easy yards, and James makes it look to easy:
Not only does he stop the run, but he was also in excellent position. If he were to somehow not make the tackle, James did his job by taking on the block and forcing the ball carrier back to the middle of the field.
This next play is a little different; James at first gets sucked in, but because of his athleticism, recovers instantly to make the play:
This play showcases just how valuable James is in the run game on the edge. If he doesn’t recover and make the play, the ball carrier easily gets a first down in what was a pivotal 4th down.
Many scouts wonder if James has the skill set to be the ball-hawking safety that will really make him an elite defensive back. In 2015, James did not record an interception, but he did make plenty of plays on the ball.
James has excellent instincts and can read the quarterbacks eyes very well. Once James makes the read, he then is capable of making some remarkable plays. Here, James reads Deshaun Watson all the way and makes a beautiful play to break up the pass:
James had a few opportunities in 2015 to get an interception, but he would have to wait until the 2016 season opener to get his first. James reads the play well, is in excellent position, and makes a wonderful play on the ball to get it at the highest point:
This play is yet another example of his incredible athleticism. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to injury in 2016, but James was able to give people a glimpse of what he is capable of.
One of the first and most concerning things I saw in James’ play was his occasional lack of effort or urgency. There were many plays during his freshman year where he just didn’t look interested or go full-out. He would be the last to the ball and would sometimes even walk during the play.
In this play, FSU is playing Clemson in a huge game to potentially decide the ACC Atlantic. FSU is still in striking distance of the Tigers and desperately needed a stop to give their offense a chance:
Given the situation, these types of plays just can’t happen. With a more aggressive approach he could have easily made the tackle preventing the touchdown. This play is just one example of his lack of effort, and it just happens to be one of his biggest and most costly errors.
For Derwin James to solidify his spot among the top prospects, he will need to continue to improve his ball skills and come down with a few interceptions. He will also need to prove he is a competitor; having the label of lazy is not something teams will think highly of.
James is an elite talent at the safety position, and his size and athleticism alone will make him a top prospect in many eyes. He makes WOW plays in just about every game and has the potential to be a game changer at the next level. I am excited to watch him further develop his game in what should be his last year as a Seminole.